Architect’s Perspective: The New Mexico Museum of Art

The museum embodies both architecture and art, two of the cornerstones of Santa Fe’s essential identity

Date February 6, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Author Deb Auten

Publication SantaFe.com

Categories Art Markets & Galleries Community Real Estate

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The New MexIco Museum of Art is “Santa Fe.” Anchoring a corner of the Plaza, this building was a landmark in the first wave of buildings designed in the Pueblo Revival style. It’s also a place that embodies both architecture and art, two of the cornerstones of Santa Fe’s essential identity.Take a look at the massive buttresses, rounded corners and openings, the tail ends of vigas that dot the facade. It would be hard to find a more “Santa Fe” building in Santa Fe—yet the design by Isaac Rapp was originally created for the New Mexico Building at the Panama California Exposition in San Diego in 1915, hundreds of miles away. The building came home again in a slightly altered form, but its design is a round trip in more than one way: Isaac Raap’s education as a self-styled architect came from hands-on experience working with his builder-father, which in turn was the model for his practical study of the building traditions in New Mexico which led to the birth of “Santa Fe Style.”

Before the museum was built, businesses on the Plaza had systematically stripped the facades of portals and other “old-fashioned” elements from their buildings in a bulldozer- like push to modernize. It’s hard to imagine that the look our Historic Design Review Board now labors so hard to maintain was the very image that the movers and shakers of the late nineteenth century obliterated— what we know as Santa Fe was, in a sense, resurrected as much as preserved. The take-away, for me as an architect, is to root contemporary work in the genuine tradition.

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